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Published on October 16th, 2011 | by Greg

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Camp With Hydrapak’s Sizable Jolla and Mountainsmith’s Sunlight

Fall brings some of the best weath­er for the Bay Area, and plen­ty of oth­er places as well. Whether it’s a trip to a corn maze or a pump­kin patch, or more se­ri­ous hikes through Yel­low­stone or around your fa­vorite state park, au­tumn is a love­ly time to go and see what na­ture has to of­fer. We’ve been drag­ging sev­er­al items through the leaves, dirt, wind, and rain, and have two to pre­sent to­day: a com­fy sleep­ing bag and a large hy­dra­tion back­pack.

We’ll get things start­ed with the Moun­tain­smith Sun­light 20. This is a right-hand zip, down sleep­ing bag, bring­ing with it the ben­e­fits and costs of that ma­te­ri­al- the warmth and com­fort, but the weight and oc­ca­sion­al is­sues with lump­ing. The Sun­light us­es 650 grade down- a nice mid-range that makes it great for camp­ing in cold­er cli­mates but per­haps not the best fit for the ul­tra­lightweight or alpine crowd (the 20, of course, in­di­cates the low­est tem­per­a­ture rec­om­mend­ed for use, in Fahren­heit de­grees).

What we liked most about this bag is the size- it can fit folks taller than 6 feet, which many bags have trou­ble ac­com­mo­dat­ing. We have a writ­er who is about 6’3″, and he had no trou­ble with the Sun­light. Shoul­ders and even legs can still be con­strain­ing though, we wouldn’t rec­om­mend this bag for the re­al­ly broad folks. The mum­my style is a good way to shave off some weight and make the bag a bit more cozy, but if you’re the type that needs quite a bit of ven­ti­la­tion or room to move around, you might want a non-mum­my bag. Avail­able in on­ly one col­or, a cit­ron green with dark­er edg­ing, as usu­al Moun­tain­smith has made a sol­id, fair­ly nor­mal-look­ing, durable-feel­ing bag. Mud wiped off clean­ly, stitch­ing was ex­cel­lent, and zip­pers were well-built. Our on­ly re­al is­sue was the neck baf­fling- it wasn’t op­tion­al or ful­ly ex­pand­able, and one small­er writ­er re­port­ed feel­ing a bit swal­lowed. At $189 MSRP and avail­able for around $140 on­line, this is the best bag we’ve tried this sea­son and an ex­cel­lent choice for those in need of a mid-priced sleep­ing bag. Per­fect for taller folks, and with a nice in­clud­ed com­pres­sion sack and stor­age bag, we still look to Moun­tain­smith as one of our top go-to sup­pli­ers for out­doors gear.

Out of the blue, though, comes a man­u­fac­tur­er that we weren’t so fa­mil­iar with. There are so many bags and styles of back­packs these days- you have to de­cide on whether you want an ex­ter­nal frame for heavy lift­ing, an in­ter­nal one, or just a plain-old back­pack. Do you want three pock­ets? Eight? Twelve? A lap­top sleeve? A mes­sen­ger or a cam­era bag or even a com­bo/hy­brid with wheels? You’ll prob­a­bly want hy­dra­tion- and though plen­ty of bags of­fer room for sleeves or some­times pro­vide their own, they aren’t quite so many bags with hy­dra­tion as a fo­cus and a back­pack built around that use. The Hy­dra­pak Jol­la is pre­cise­ly this, and is the largest pack avail­able at press time from the com­pa­ny, pro­vid­ing 1100 cu­bic inch­es of stor­age and three liters of liq­uid. There’s al­so room for two wa­ter bot­tles in the pro­vid­ed pock­ets, and the reser­voir is re­mov­able and one of the best we’ve tried- eas­i­ly clean­able, and not prone to leaks or punc­tures that can eas­i­ly ru­in com­peti­tors. You can hand­i­ly re­move and re­place the reser­voir with­out the tube, al­low­ing you con­ve­nient hose-free re­fill­ing.

Avail­able in black and teal (and, ac­cord­ing to Ama­zon, Ivory?), we liked the up­per pock­et for your phone or MP3 play­er, with head­phone passthrough. A ster­num and waist straps are pro­vid­ed, and the straps are fair­ly com­fort­able- not the best we’ve tried, but weight bal­anced fair­ly well. Cinch straps ga­lore help com­press gear, and it held up nice­ly in some rain- the bot­tom seemed a lit­tle less wa­ter-re­sis­tant than we want­ed, but over­all the stitch­ing and build qual­i­ty was quite good, and the weath­er-pro­tect­ing lid was nice. We weren’t quite sat­is­fied with the padding and ven­ti­la­tion- al­most ev­ery good hik­ing bag we’ve used has pro­vid­ed bet­ter ven­ti­la­tion, pre­vent­ing soaked and sweaty backs. There aren’t many strong con­tenders in the hy­drat­ing pack sec­tor, and so we’re hap­py to wel­come Hy­dra­pak. At $144 MR­SP, but avail­able for about half of that price on­line, it’s a de­cent deal. The hy­dra­tion reser­voir it­self is the best we’ve tried, even if the sur­round­ing bag doesn’t quite take top hon­ors.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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